Big contributions coming in, but so far it’s to defeat medical marijuana in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — New campaign finance disclosures show some big contributions to campaigns to defeat Proposition 2, the medical marijuana ballot initiative.

Reports recently filed with the Utah Lt. Governor’s Office show wealthy Utah developer Kem Gardner cut a $100,000 check to Drug Safe Utah. So did Colony Partners, which is run by Walter Plumb III, a leading opponent of Prop. 2. With a few other donations, it gives Drug Safe Utah $230,000 in contributions over the past few months.

“We are grateful for the support of our coalition partners—both those who donate and those who speak out about why Prop 2 goes too far. The more people learn about the serious consequences of this approach to medical marijuana, the less they support it,” Drug Safe Utah’s Jennifer Scott said in a statement released through the group.

Plumb, who is also suing Lt. Governor Spencer Cox to keep medical marijuana off the November ballot, has also self-funded his group Truth About Proposition 2 within the past couple of months to the tune of about $65,000.

Meanwhile, campaign finance disclosures show the Utah Patients Coalition has racked up about $116,175 stretching back to June with a lot of small contributions ranging from $5 to $5,000. The biggest contributor is the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based group that seeks to decriminalize cannabis nationwide, which gave $50,000 on August 21. The group also recently held a fundraiser in Denver for Utah Patients Coalition, which is sponsoring Prop. 2. 

Updated disclosure reports on Monday show Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne has contributed $46,000 to support Prop. 2.

One of Utah’s leading medical marijuana advocacy organizations has announced it is transitioning to what’s called a Political Issues Committee, which allows them to fundraise and make political donations. Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education (TRUCE) announced it is transitioning to a PIC to support Prop. 2.

In a statement announcing the change, TRUCE President Christine Stenquist said she was concerned about meetings between opponents of Prop. 2 including Drug Safe Utah, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and House Speaker Greg Hughes in hopes of drafting a “compromise” bill (the Utah Patients Coalition has confirmed it has participated in some of those discussions).

“Proposition 2 belongs to the more than 200,000 Utah citizens who signed the petition and brought this measure before Utah voters. No one group speaks for, represents, or owns Proposition 2 nor has the authority to negotiate away any of the carefully crafted provisions of the ballot measure. This new PIC will pursue the passage of Proposition 2 regardless of any so-called comprises that may be negotiated in secretive backroom deals,” Stenquist said in the statement.

September 30 is one of the deadlines for finance disclosures for political candidates and ballot initiatives. Other citizen referendums are also fundraising to market their causes before voters.

Utahns for Responsive Government, which is sponsoring Prop. 4 (independent redistricting) has raised more than a half-million in the past few months. Philanthropist Barbara Tanner gave them $20,000 earlier this week. Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller gave them $10,000, as did WordPerfect Founder Bruce Bastian. Other contributions ranged from 25 cents to Texas-based Action Now Initiative’s $176,767 donation (the group is run by billionaires John and Laura Arnold).

Question 1, the dime-a-gallon gas tax hike to pay for education, has raised a staggering $1.1 million in the past few months, according to the disclosures. Our Schools Now, which is pushing a yes vote in billboards and TV ads, reported some high dollar contributions including $30,000 from Zions Bank CEO Harris Simmons, another $100,000 from Zions Management Service Company; a $50,000 donation from Bruce Bastian; a $150,000 donation from Vivint; a $250,000 contribution from Gail Miller; $50,000 from industrialist Khosrow Semnani; $100,000 from private prison operator Management & Training Corp.; and $25,000 from the Boyer family.

Utah Decides Healthcare, which is sponsoring Prop. 3, the full-Medicaid expansion, reported the least in overall donations within the last few months with only $8,979 in individual contributions. However, the group has had big backing from national organizations including the AARP, the American Cancer Society, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association.

On Monday, those numbers were updated to show Utah Decides Healthcare had received $221,209 in contributions over the past few months. Nearly $179,000 in donations came from the D.C.-based Fairness Project.